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African American and Hispanic perceptions of how the news media covers their communities

African Americans and Hispanics are concerned with the accessibility of news about their communities and the portrayal of their communities by the media

In general, people feel it is easier to get news today than five years ago and this is true for African Americans and Hispanics as well as Americans overall. Six in 10 American adults think it is somewhat or much easier to keep up with the news, including 60 percent of non-Hispanic white Americans, 58 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanics. By contrast, 27 percent say there is no real difference from five years ago (27 percent of African Americans, 30 percent of Hispanics). Only a small percentage of any group says it is harder to keep up with the news these days (12 percent of adults overall, 11 percent of Hispanics, and 15 percent of African Americans).

Fewer than half of African Americans and Hispanics think it is easier to keep up with news about their specific communities today compared with five years ago.

Yet among African Americans and Hispanics, the sense that technology and the rapidly changing news landscape have made it easier to stay informed applies less to learning specifically about their respective racial or ethnic communities. Indeed, African Americans and Hispanics are just as likely to say nothing has changed in the last five years.

Fewer than half of African Americans (39 percent) and Hispanics (41 percent) think it is easier to keep up with news about their specific communities today compared with five years ago; the same proportion believes there is no difference (41 percent of African Americans, 41 percent of Hispanics). Ten percent of African Americans and 17 percent of Hispanics think it is now harder to keep up with news about their respective communities.

Type of news African Americans Hispanics
News in general 58% 57%
News about the African American community 39% 0
News about the Hispanic community 0 41%

Data Source: The Personal News Cycle: A focus on African American and Hispanic news consumers, 2014

THE MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

African Americans think local TV news organizations regularly cover their community, while Hispanics see more regular coverage from ethnically focused news organizations

Concerns among African Americans and Hispanics about how easy it is to keep up with news about their respective communities are linked to how much coverage they see of those communities in the media. Few people report seeing frequent coverage of their community in the news media, with just 21 percent of Hispanics and 23 percent of African Americans saying their communities receive coverage “very regularly.”

The majority of both groups — 71 percent of African Americans and 74 percent of Hispanics — falls in the middle and says their communities are covered just “somewhat regularly” or “only occasionally.” Most of that group, about 4 in 10 overall, say their communities are covered only occasionally. And 3 percent of African Americans and Hispanics say they feel their groups are basically never covered.

African Americans believe their community is most regularly covered by local television news. Hispanics are far more likely to say they must turn to ethnic media to see regular coverage of their own community.

Another striking finding in the survey concerns which types of media African Americans and Hispanics think cover their respective communities most often. Here there are marked differences.

In general, African Americans believe their community is most regularly covered by local television news. African Americans are more than 3 times as likely as Hispanics to say that local television news stations most regularly cover their community’s people and issues (23 percent vs. 7 percent).

Hispanics are far more likely to say they must turn to ethnic media to see regular coverage of their own community. While 42 percent of Hispanics say that ethnic media sources such as Univision, the Spanish-language television network, most regularly cover their community’s people and issues, just 15 percent of African Americans cite an African American-centered media source — such as Black Entertainment Television or African American newspapers — as the media source that most regularly covers their community’s people and issues. These types of sources are cited throughout the survey as a preferred source for news by a sizable proportion of Hispanic respondents.

Perceived frequency of coverage African Americans Hispanics
Very regularly 23% 21%
Somewhat regularly 28% 28%
Occasionally 43% 46%
Never 3% 3%

Data Source: The Personal News Cycle: A focus on African American and Hispanic news consumers, 2014

THE MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

Source African Americans Hispanics
Local news station 23%* 7%
National broadcast TV news program 1% 1%
24-hour news 5% 10%
Online-only sources 1% 1%
Newspapers 9% 9%
News wires 0% 0%
Radio programming 7% 2%
Specialty sources 1% 1%
African American or Hispanic specific news 15% 42%*
Unspecified TV station 3% 4%
Friend, family, colleague 3% 2%
None 2% 1%
Magazines 2% 1%
Journals 0% 0%
Non-specific 1% 1%
Other 1% 1%
Did not specify 26% 19%

Data Source: The Personal News Cycle: A focus on African American and Hispanic news consumers, 2014
* Indicates statistical significance at p<.05

THE MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

African Americans are more likely than Hispanics to question the accuracy of the news media’s portrayal of their community

And how accurately do African Americans and Hispanics feel the media they turn to covers the concerns and issues of their specific racial or ethnic community? Here there is an even more distinct divide.

African Americans are more skeptical of the media’s portrayal of their community than are Hispanics. Nearly 4 in 10 African Americans (38 percent) report that the news they consume does not at all accurately portray their community or does so just slightly. Only 25 percent give the media they use high marks for accuracy when covering the African American community, with 6 percent calling it completely accurate and 19 percent very much accurate. Another 37 percent give the media they use a middle rating, describing it as moderately accurate.

Hispanic adults are more likely to see themselves positively portrayed in the media. While nearly 4 in 10 African African Americans believe the portrayal of their community is inaccurate, just a quarter of Hispanic adults say the media they consume inaccurately portrays their community. Further, just a quarter of African Americans consider the portrayal of their community accurate, whereas a third of Hispanic adults say that the Hispanic community is accurately portrayed in the media. Another 41 percent of Hispanics consider the portrayal of their community moderately accurate.

Accuracy rating African Americans Hispanics
Completely 6% 16%
Very much 19% 17%
Moderately 37% 41%
Slightly 28% 20%
Not at all 10% 5%

Data Source: The Personal News Cycle: A focus on African American and Hispanic news consumers, 2014

THE MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

One possible reason for the differing levels of skepticism about the accuracy of media portrayal of the two communities may be the news ecosystem itself. Hispanics in the United States today have access to a sizable amount of Spanish language media on television, including the national network Univision, as well as media online from other countries. The African American press in the United States has contracted to the point where there are no longer daily print African American papers (they are either weekly, or less frequent and publish daily online), and cable channels aimed at African Americans do not feature a daily general interest news program. The news ecosystem itself, in short, is uneven, potentially creating uneven perceptions.

Hispanics in the United States today have access to a sizable amount of Spanish language media. The African American press in the United States has contracted.

The survey also probed respondents about which news sources, of those used, they consider most accurate in coverage of their respective communities. Here there are also differences.

Hispanics overwhelmingly cite news sources targeted at Hispanics as most accurate in their portrayal of that community. Roughly half of all Hispanics (49 percent) point directly to ethnic media as the most accurate source for news about the Hispanic community. No other source even registers in double digits.

African Americans, by contrast, have less of a distinct preference about the best place to see accurate coverage of African American issues and people. An equal number point to local television as to media sources aimed specifically at African Americans, such as Black Entertainment Television or the African American press, and no one source stands out.

In all, 19 percent cite local television news and 18 percent cite African American-centered media, while 10 percent cite newspapers as the most accurate sources and 6 percent cite online-only sources. Fully 15 percent of African Americans volunteer that no media sources accurately portray their community; 1 percent of Hispanics say the same.

Source African Americans Hispanics
Local news station 19%* 5%
National broadcast TV news program 0% 1%
24-hour news 6% 8%
Online-only sources 1% 1%
Newspapers 10% 6%
News wires 0% 0%
Radio programming 4% 2%
Specialty sources 1% 0%
African American or Hispanic specific news 18% 49%*
Unspecified TV station 2% 3%
Friend, family, colleague 1% 2%
None 15%* 1%
Magazines 1% 1%
Journals 0% 0%
Non-specific 1% 1%
Other 1% 1%
Did not specify 21% 15%

Data Source: The Personal News Cycle: A focus on African American and Hispanic news consumers, 2014
* Indicates statistical significance at p<.05

THE MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

For African Americans, perceptions of how accurate their community is portrayed in the media relate strongly to how much coverage they perceive. People who perceive a good deal of coverage are more likely to believe the coverage is accurate.

Fully 3 in 4 African Americans who say their community is covered regularly also think the portrayal of their community is at least moderately accurate. Yet of those who perceive that their community is covered only occasionally, most think that coverage is inaccurate.

This correlation to amount of coverage and perceptions of accuracy does not exist among Hispanics, a group more inclined to turn to ethnic media for this information. Among Hispanic respondents, 79 percent who think their community is covered regularly also think that coverage is accurate. Yet, 69 percent of those who perceive only occasional coverage of their community in the media still think that what they did notice is accurate.

An overwhelming 78 percent of those who took the survey in Spanish report that they try to keep up with news about the Hispanic community, compared with 39 percent of the Hispanic adults who took the survey in English.

As a baseline to understanding the relationship between news and race or ethnicity, the survey also probed the extent to which African American and Hispanic adults try to keep up with news about their respective racial or ethnic communities. Majorities of both groups say they do try to keep up with their communities, but there is a noticeable difference in those numbers.

Nearly 7 in 10 African American adults (69 percent) report that they try to keep up with news about the African American community. By contrast, a much smaller majority of Hispanic adults (53 percent) report that they try to keep up with the news specifically about Hispanics. Among Hispanics, there are marked differences between those who took the survey in English versus Spanish. An overwhelming 78 percent of those who took the survey in Spanish report that they try to keep up with news about the Hispanic community, compared with 39 percent of the Hispanic adults who took the survey in English.

Segment % responding 'yes'
African Americans 69%
Hispanics surveyed in English 39%
Hispanics surveyed in Spanish 80%

Data Source: The Personal News Cycle: A focus on African American and Hispanic news consumers, 2014

THE MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

The next question for those who do try to follow news about their racial or ethnic community was which technology and news sources they used to do so. The survey was unusual, as noted above, in probing consumers for the extent to which they distinguished among technology, means of discovery, and news gathering sources in their news consumption. There is more detailed description of those findings below.

As it pertains to technology devices, and getting news about one’s own ethnic community in particular, television is the source of choice for Hispanics but is less so generally for African Americans.

Fully 60 percent of Hispanic adults cite television as the device they use for news about the Hispanic community. Next, far fewer Hispanics cite the internet (19 percent) and then mention no particular technology (16 percent).

By comparison, just 39 percent of African American adults volunteer television as the device they use for news about the African American community. No mention of a particular technology was next (30 percent), followed by the internet (25 percent).

And how do Hispanics and African Americans who follow news about their community tend to discover or acquire this news? Is it through social media, word of mouth, or internet searches? For both groups, majorities say they discover this news more actively by going to the news organization directly, either on television, online, in print, or by some other means, but there are still distinct differences.

Given the relative dissatisfaction of African Americans with the portrayal of their community in the media, and the absence of a particular source for that news that stands out, the findings suggest a potential unmet market for news about the concerns of — and issues affecting — African Americans.

Fully 71 percent of Hispanics say they get their news about the Hispanic community directly from a news organization; fewer African Americans (52 percent) say they get news about the African American community directly from a news organization. African Americans are more likely to cite a range of other sources in slightly higher numbers.

Finally, beyond the type of technology used or the means of discovery, what kinds of news gathering sources do Hispanics and African Americans use for news about their respective communities? As noted above, Hispanic adults (48 percent) are far more likely to use sources focused specifically on their community than African Americans (17 percent) are to go to media focused on African American issues or concerns, either the historic black press or sources such as Black Entertainment Television. African Americans are most likely to cite local television news (23 percent), but in reality their news consumption is split fairly evenly among other sources, including newspapers (17 percent), African American-centered media (17 percent), or no particular source specified (19 percent).

Given the relative dissatisfaction of African Americans with the portrayal of their community in the media, and the absence of a particular source for that news that stands out, the findings suggest a potential unmet market for news about the concerns of — and issues affecting — African Americans.

Top three devices, means of discovery, and sources African Americans and Hispanics use for news about their communities

Rank African Americans Hispanics
Top devices for news
1 Television (39%) Television (60%)
2 No device mentioned (30%) Internet, device unspecified (19%)
3 Internet, device unspecified (25%) No device mentioned (16%)
Top means of discovering news
1 Directly from a news organization reporting it (52%) Directly from a news organization reporting it (71%)
2 No discovery mentioned (10%) Word of mouth (8%)
3 Directly from a specialty news organization (8%) No discovery mentioned (7%)
Top sources for news
1 Local news station (23%)  Hispanic community specific news (48%)
2 African American community specific news (17%) Local news station (12%)
3 Newspapers (17%) No source mentioned (11%)

Data Source: The Personal News Cycle: A focus on African American and Hispanic news consumers, 2014

THE MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

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